What is an Advergame?

Jessica Ellis

An advergame is a video game that incorporates marketing for a franchise or company into the game itself. Advergames have existed nearly as long as video gaming, and are considered by many expert analysts as a very successful way of raising product awareness and increasing repeat traffic to product-promoting websites. There are several different way to incorporate advertising into the wide world of video gaming, and smart marketing companies have made use of many different ways to grab interest in products by using an advergame.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Some of the earliest advergames were distributed as full video games, prior to the widespread use of the internet. These games were marketed on console systems, sold for early personal computers, or given out as promotional items or free gifts with purchase. Many featured franchise characters as game heroes, in the hopes of creating user identification with the game character and thus the brand. In one highly popular early advergame, Cool Spot®, the character plays as the mascot of 7-Up® soda, a tiny red spot with legs, arms, and sunglasses. A game like this, marketed through mass media outlets, is known as an “above the line,” or ATL, advergame.

A below the line, or BTL, advergame is a bit sneakier in its approach to product placement. These games may not directly feature products or ideas, but may include them in the background or underlying message of the game. For instance, many sports video games show stadium walls or billboards with real advertisements on them, such as for clothing or soft drinks. Much as movies allow products to be featured for a fee, games can sell advertising space to other companies for money.

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Another type of advergame using the same strategy aims at drawing the user to investigate further into the lifestyle of the characters depicted. This type of advergame can come under heavy criticism as a means of influencing players, particularly children and teenagers, into certain viewpoints. Some suggest that many military-based games are intended as a recruitment tool for the armed forces, and many are criticized as being an oversimplified or glamorized advertisement for joining the military.

Since the advent of the Internet, the world of the advergame has become even more fascinating and complex. Many advergames are offered as small, clickable ads on websites that will lead the user to another website when clicked on. Others offer the promise of rewards and prizes if the user plays and wins an online advergame. Many people consider these games to be misleading and a nuisance, particularly as they employ distracting graphics or sudden pop-up screens.

The advergame is the result of the advertising world's brilliant response to the world of computer gaming. As a marketing tool, modern advergames can attract a wide range of web-users to investigate the offered product, idea or company. Proponents of advergames point out that users have free choice, do not have to give personal information if they do not desire to, and can close the website or game at a time of their choosing. Critics, on the other hand, suggest that advergames appeal to uninformed decision makers such as children, that may be duped into giving away personal information that endangers privacy.

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